I had four Serious Boyfriends, in my teens and twenties. My husband was Serious Boyfriend No. 5. (Except, he was very unserious. I laughed more than I breathed, whenever I was near him.)
But I came close-ish to marrying Serious Boyfriends No. 3 and 4. I was in love and old enough, so for each of them I thought, this must be it.
I remember heading east of Pretoria on the N4 for a weekend away, my best friend in the passenger seat. It was the era of Serious Boyfriend No. 3 and we were talking about him. As you do. She said,
‘Is he your list?’
I knew she knew that Serious Boyfriend No. 3 was God’s best for someone else, not me. It irritated me that I knew she knew because I badly wanted him to fit my this-is-what-I-want-in-a-husband list. I’d written the list at the back of a Bible and been praying it for years.
I can’t remember my reply, but I couldn’t shake her gentle courage in bringing to my attention that I was settling.
My list wasn’t cheesy or naive. It didn’t have things like ‘Rich’ and ‘Rock-hard abs’. It was all character, core values and hopes for a mutual appreciation of what would make us both tick for a lifetime.
My list falls into the too-sacred-to-blog category, but if you’ve met my husband, the list is what he’d look like if you fed him into a machine that could turn humans into words. He showed up in my life as if he’d walked off the pages of that prayer.
It must be said here that I make decisions quickly. My husband makes decisions slowly. When we go for dinner, I open the menu – scan – decide. He opens the menu and wants to pray about it for three weeks while I mouth apologetically to the waiter to give us just a few more minutes…
God is so kind. He works with our temperaments – our impetuous romanticism, our doubts and deliberations – to show us His will. So,
Don’t feel guilty if you’re the one in the relationship who just isn’t sure. Ask God to settle your thoughts and bring yay-or-nay clarity.
And don’t feel guilty if you *just-knew-he’s-the-one!* for the last six guys you dated only to find a couple months into a relationship that really, you just didn’t know.
On either side of the decision-making spectrum, emotions are fickle and deceptive. We – and our hormones and our fears of the future – can talk us into and out of almost anything.
Still, whether your decisions are spontaneous or unhurried, have a clue what it is you want in a man, so you’ll recognise him – immediately or eventually.
I was still with Serious Boyfriend No. 3 when another friend asked me:
‘If he never changes, is that ok with you?’
What she was asking me was,
If he never ‘improves’ – if nothing about him grows or develops from now until death parts you – are you really fine with that?
I wasn’t fine with that. Unfairly, I wanted him to be more than what he was – different from what he was, in ways I thought would make him more like the man I dreamed of loving.
Of course, our spouses will and must change over time. We’re supposed to get more and more like Jesus the older we get. So if you guys are walking with God, look forward to getting the new improved version of your spouse, year by year.
But before you commit for life, you need to absolutely love who and how he is – his flaws and all that makes him fantastic, today. If you’re secretly plotting an extreme make-over of his personality, walk away.
Yet another friend loved me enough to ask, in the days when Serious Boyfriend No. 4 was finding new ways to sweep me off my feet despite the growing unease in my gut:
‘Look ahead. Look ten years from now. What do you see?’
So I did. I looked ahead. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit. Maybe it was my imagination. But what I saw terrified me because all I saw was loneliness. I knew in that instant that if we were to get married, Serious Boyfriend No. 4 and I wouldn’t have much in common in ten or twenty years’ time. We wouldn’t be friends anymore.
As much as anyone’s future is unknowable, I knew for sure I needed a future friend.
The other night during an unprompted, uncontrived DMC my husband asked me, ‘What’s been your favourite thing about being married?’
I said a bunch of true, mushy, meaningful stuff, but Dinah Craik said it better two centuries ago and possibly, she’s got your answer right here too:
Oh, the comfort –
The inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person –
Having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
But pouring them all right out,
Just as they are,
Chaff and grain together;
Certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
Keep what is worth keeping,
And then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
. . .
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